Dechen Dolkar  

Tour operators and hotels have to provide a business bond of Nu 500,000 when setting up the business, according to the draft Tourism Rules and Regulations 2022.

For tour operators, it has to be submitted at the time of applying for technical clearance and for hotels when applying for registration with the Tourism Council of Bhutan (TCB).

The draft rules were shared with service providers for their feedback. Kuensel learnt that TCB’s board will approve the draft soon before the country reopens to international tourists.

The business bond, submitted to the TCB will be validated and renewed before expiry, and the validity of the bank guarantee for the business bond will be a minimum of one year.

Service providers can withdraw the bond either upon voluntary cancellation of their licence or dissolution of an establishment. Penalties and outstanding bills would be adjusted from the business bond.

“In the case of termination, the TCB will forfeit the business bond and payment of outstanding bills from the business bond will not be entertained,” the draft rules state.

The draft rules state that the vehicle for tourists should be luxury SUVs (above 1,900cc), luxury buses (above 2,400cc) or electric vehicles (40kWh of a battery pack).

For a vehicle to be certified by the TCB as a tourist vehicle, it will have to be certified and registered with the Road Safety and Transport Authority (RSTA) and has to meet all the requirements for commercial passenger vehicle specifications.

The draft rules and regulations also stated that the vehicle should not be older than seven years from the date of registration with the RSTA.

It also mentioned that it should be equipped with a minimum of one fire extinguisher for SUVs and two fire extinguishers for buses, have a functional air conditioning system and other amenities and have valid comprehensive insurance.

A tourist visiting Bhutan and travelling beyond the designated point, driving their own vehicle including two-wheelers, will be facilitated upon payment of Nu 4,500.

The foreign tourist vehicle cannot be more than 10 years old from the date of registration.

Service providers have to provide the business bond in the form of a bank guarantee drawn in favour of the TCB or any other agency identified for that purpose and payable at banks located in Thimphu.

Tour guide 

Every tour has to have a guide. A tour operator will arrange at least one guide for every 10 tourists in a group.

The draft rules and regulations state that a tour guide may be categorised into four levels of competency: beginner, intermediate, proficient, and master.

It says the tour guide may be specialised in culture, spiritual, trekking, photography, agri-tour, birding, eco-tourism, rafting or kayaking, fishing, and arts and craft.

To apply for specialisation, a guide will have to fulfil at least two years of experience as a culture guide, serve a minimum of five tours, have completed relevant courses in the field of the particular specialisation and be declared competent by a competent authority.

A tour operator may specialise in product or service offerings like nature and eco-tourism, adventure and sports, spiritual and wellness, culture and MICE.